HEEEEEY! Claudio Castagnoli and Sara del Rey enter the AWS Arena for a twilight adventure featuring fireballs and a high-flying tag title match. Click below for a detailed review of the show.
An Alternative Wrestling Show event was the first ever independent card I attended when I moved to Southern California in January 2006, and that event, “The Super Bart Shuffle” (now available on DVD AT the Alternative Wrestling Shop) remains a fond memory as a top-to-bottom great local show. AWS has given me a lot of good memories from their shows, including the War Games cage match last year that remains in my mind one of the best SoCal matches of 2006. I haven’t been able to attend an AWS event in several months due to their move to Fridays making it impossible for me to attend, but a rare lapse in my work schedule allowed me to check out their latest show, featuring international indy sensation Claudio Castagnoli.
This was only my second outdoor event at the makeshit “Arena” at the Frank and Son parking lot, and my first at night. The night setting created a better ambiance for live wrestling, although the visibility was a bit iffy at times.
Bo Cooper vs. Donnie Tsunami
Donnie, more commonly known as Diablo in HRW, was replacing Crayz in the second round of the tournament to crown a new AWS Heavyweight Champion.
Since this was the first match of a long card and the ending wasn’t much in doubt, this only went about 3 minutes, with Cooper squashing the much smaller Tsunami very quickly. The match did a decent job of establishing Cooper as a formidable “monster” opponent for the next round.
Joey Ryan vs. Aaron Aguilera
Joey proudly showed off the NWA World Tag Team title belt he won earlier this week in Texas, although his partner Karl Anderson was busy helping RECLAIM THE GLORY in the EWF this night. Aguilera is clearly the most popular wrestler in AWS at the moment (evident by all the little kids in the crowd who wanted to high-five him) so pushing him deep into the tournament was a smart idea.
The match started in solid fashion, with Aguilera taking Joey around the ring and tossing him into a pile of chairs in the crowd. Joey of course took advantage by CHEATING, and used his opening to work the leg of Aguilera throughout the match. Aguilera did a good job of selling the leg work during the match, and made a few comebacks only to be chopped down. After escaping a figure-four, Aguilera grabbed Joey in a small package and…got the win? The sudden ending made this seems like 2/3rds of a good match rather than a full contest.
Al Katrazz vs. Apollo Kahn
Al Katrazz, the last AWS Champion, who was stripped of the title after hitting Bart with a chair, takes on a guy who hasn’t been seen in Southern California too often in recent years, NorCal’s Apollo Kahn. Kahn didn’t stand much of a chance here, as Katrazz squashed him from more or less from bell-to-bell before finishing him with a TKO.
Scorpio Sky vs. Peter Goodman
This is my first time seeing Scorpio Sky wrestle since losing the Loser Leaves PWG match to Frankie Kazarian back in January. Peter Goodman came out with his manager, fellow UPW trainee Andrew Hellman, singing show tunes, while Scorpio came out to the new hot track by the West Coast Boyz, featuring NICKELS and some other guy. You can check out the new CD at http://www.myspace.com/musicbyscorpio. This was the most athletic match of the the tournament’s second round, featuring a nice dive by Scorpio to the outside. After a lengthy beatdown by Goodman, Scorpio looked to take advantage by concentrating on Goodman’s clearly injured knee, and nearly got the win with an Ace Crusher floatover into a Dragon Clutch. However, Goodman escaped by nefarious means, and shockingly won with a spinning enziguiri to the face, making it a heel/heel semifinal encounter with Al Katrazz.
The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) (c) vs. Los Luchas (Zokre and Phoenix Star) – AWS Tag Team Title Match
The one thing AWS has done very right is push the Young Bucks as their tag team feature attraction. Two brothers with fantastic chemistry as a team and a dazzling array of double-team moves, these guys are going to be major players in the SoCal independent scene for years to come.
The Bucks have gotten new, Rocker-centric gear, possibly to promote their match teaming with Marty Jannetty at HRW’s August 4th show, “Highway to Hell.” This was the fast-paced, spot-filled sprint you’d come to expect from these two teams, except there appeared to be communication errors at points where both teams were a half-step off on what they were planning to do. The Bucks brought the only high-risk spots of the evening, doing several running somersault dives onto the Luchas on the floor. While the Luchas stayed in the match with their signature offense, the Bucks were not in danger of actually losing the match at any point. The ending came when Matt Finlay-Rolled Zokre onto Phoenix Star, allowing Nick to his a Swanton Bomb, which Matt followed up with a split-legged moonsault for the winning pinfall.
Intermission saw the formal announcement of Mil Mascaras for AWS’ next show on July 27th, which a lot of people were genuinely excited about. I even saw a fan buy a Mascara mask at the shop to get ready for the show. Fans in attendance were also able to buy tickets for 50% off the $20 admission price for the show, which was an awesome, fan-friendly move on AWS’ part.
Johnny Paradise vs. Sara del Rey
My one major criticism I’ve had in recent months of AWS, is they take some of the best talent in Southern California and sometimes beyond…and put them in matches absolutely no one wants to see. The booking of Sara del Rey is emblematic of that problem – she’s arguably one of the best female wrestlers in the world. She’s the SHIMMER Champion, has made waves in Mexico as the American Angel, and has done tours in Japan for Jd* and dragondoor among other promotions. So what do you do instead of matching her with a fellow capable female wrestler like Candice LeRae or Nikki, or an adaptable male one like a Peter Goodman or Lil’ Nate? You put her in there with arguably one of the worst singles wrestler south of Fresno, Johnny Paradise, who in addition to being terrible is far too big for Sara to use most of her offense.
Sure, this was exciting for the random heckling jackass in the front row, who loved to throw sexist comments Sara’s way, and del Rey was able to halfway carry it to something watchable with her intensity and striking, but who REALLY wanted to see one of the top female athletes in the country get sloppily and slooowly beaten down by Johnny Paradise, then pinned cleanly with a Tombstone Piledriver? Granted, I’m a lot harder on in-ring action than most of AWS’ audience, but definitely not me.
Bo Cooper vs. Aaron Aguilera
Moving on to semi-final action of the AWS Heavyweight Title Tourney, Cooper, brandishing a barbed-wire bat, takes on the former Hardkore Kidd. Aguilera immediately stole the bat and bashed it across Cooper’s back, sending pieces of it flying into the crowd (including the loosely wrapped wire itself, which scared me for a second). The match immediately went to the outside, where Cooper was actually irish-whipped into a porta-john. Once it got back in the ring, Cooper, despite using his bulk to down Aguillera at several points, was never able to get a significant advantage, and Aguilera downed him with a springboard clothesline in another short tourney match.
Al Katrazz vs. Peter Goodman
I expected this to be a short squash due to the heel vs. heel nature of the match, but surprisingly this was one of the matches that entertained me most this night, mainly due to Peter Goodman. Goodman was definitely the MVP of this show, actively engaging the crowd with wacky antics and cheating his butt off due to being massively overmatched by Katrazz. Hellman also did his part, lighting up Katrazz with punches. Finally, when a brass knuckles shot didn’t put down Katrazz, Goodman loaded his knee brace and went for the spinning enziguiri that beat Sky, only to be met with a CHOKESLAM and have his title dreams ended.
Katrazz then cut a promo putting over the history between himself and Aaron Aguilera, and that the decision match for the AWS Heavyweight Championship will be PERSONAL! Hype promos like this are an easy thing that so many smaller independents forget to do, and it might have sold a couple extra tickets for July 27th.
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Ronin vs. Ryu Sakoda vs. Lil’ Nate
No Human Tornado for this one, which was really disappointing. It WAS nice to see Lil’ Nate back though, who was responsible for many of the best AWS matches of 2006. Due to the 8-week lull between PWG events, it was a great treat to see Claudio Castagnoli in SoCal ahead of schedule, as he might just be the best unsigned heavyweight in the world right now. Sakoda, formerly a member of Tajiri’s Kyo Dai in WWE, now sports a “Ryu from Street Fighter” gimmick and carries a sword to the ring. What struck me most about this match, is how good Claudio truly is. Nearly no one in the audience had any idea who he was, but won them over just by essentially being Claudio. This was worked primarily as a tag match, with poor Lil’ Nate being the face in peril. Of course, it did BREAK DOWN, with a bunch of spots and finisher exchanges, and Claudio busted out all his trademarks (including his rarely used Naniwa Crab Walk elbow.) It looked like at one moment Ronin would have Claudio beat with the DVD, only to fall to the RICOLA BOMB and have Claudio pick up the win in his AWS debut. Surprisingly, after the match Sakoda laid out Claudio with a freaking HADOKEN fireball. I guess he really IS Ryu from Street Fighter.
I’ve been a big supporter of the Alternative Wrestling Show since I’ve been in California. This was the sixth AWS event I have attended, and while I’ve always had a good time, I really can’t help but feel that the promotion isn’t living up to its past standards or the potential it has right now. Tonight’s show was entertaining, but nothing stood out, and as I said in the Paradise/del Rey match a LOT of it has to do with talent and match booking. The easiest way to put on a great wrestling show is to book good wrestlers against other good wrestlers so they can have good matches and make fans happy. Instead, in many cases AWS has put very good wrestlers against very BAD wrestlers and it’s caused a lot of awkward matches instead of the great ones that could be happening. A few talent swaps and upgrades and AWS could easily be THE premier locals-oriented promotion in California. Instead of Johnny Paradise, how about Joey Harder? Instead of Tommy Wilson or Crayz, how about Bino Gambino or LTP? Instead of Los Chivos, how about the Ballards, or if they aren’t available, two cardboard cutouts of Rey Mysterio Jr.?
AWS been awarded the title of #2 promotion in Southern California by the members of this website for the past three years. I’d much rather see them EARN that distinction rather than get it by default, and I truly believe with some minor talent booking adjustments, all those pieces will fall into place.
More information about upcoming AWS events, including the next show on July 27th featuring lucha libre legend Mil Mascaras and the AWS Championship Decision Match between Aaron Aguilera and Al Katrazz, can be found at http://www.alternativewrestlingshow.com